Nonprofit partners with police department in hopes of strengthening family, community and police…

Nonprofit partners with police department in hopes of strengthening family, community and police relations

The Community Connection Outreach Program released August schedule with events focussed on building family bonds

Special to The Sun: The Community Connections Outreach Program partnered with the Food Bank of South Jersey to host “Cooking Matters for Families,” a workshop where children and parents learned new recipes and made food together.

David Scolari said his upbringing was fashioned by kind, motivation-instilling parents. “They gave me opportunities to learn new things,” he said.

He attributes his family life as the reason why he became the program director at the Community Connections Outreach Program, which is headquartered in the same building as the Gloucester Township Police Department.

The CCOP is a nonprofit that offers programs aimed at strengthening the bond between family members and a family’s connection to their community.

A calendar listing events and dates was recently released. Programs include Summer Mural & Ice Cream Social, Family Game Night, Family Dinner Night, basketball games and more. Last week, an event was held during which families learned a new recipe and cooked a meal together.

The center also provides referrals to behavioral health services, victim and trauma services, housing services and more.

“It is all available to anyone. We are family focused but still open to individuals if they need help. Income level does not matter,” Scolari said, noting all services are free.

During the center’s four-year existence, funding has come from the Camden County Community Planning and Advocacy Council — another nonprofit, but with a focus of supporting programs such as the CCOP.

The have also gained support from the Gloucester Township Police Department.

In 2010, the police department introduced “third-gear policing.”

In a post on the department’s Nextdoor page — a private, social network for neighborhoods — the department said, “…it must be understood throughout the community and the entire police department that arrest is not the only solution and not the only duty of a police officer.”

The statement went on to explain a police department should also focus on crime prevention (second gear) and intervention (third gear).

“Here at Gloucester Township Police Department our entire policing philosophy now embodies these three gears because providing officers prevention and intervention opportunities helps build trust in our communities.”

The department explained multiple changes have come to law enforcement since the third-gear initiative: body-worn cameras, policy changes, police-community communication outlets and more. Most recently, Capt. Brandan Barton gave a presentation about “third-gear policing” at the 21 County, 21st Century Community Policing Project (21/21 Project) gathering at the Camden County Regional Emergency Training Center on July 24. The 21/21 Project is an initiative aimed at building the relationship between law enforcement and community. Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced the statewide project in April.

Scolari said the partnership between CCOP and the police department can “keep kids out of the justice system.”

The presence of police officers at multiple events and the department promoting the events allows for a new avenue in community and police relationship, Scolari explained.

“This encourages positive interactions with the police department,” he said.

For more information about Community Connections Outreach, visit https://www.centerffs.org/our-services/community-connections/community-connections-outreach-gloucester-township.